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CVG
20 Reviews

Driver San Francisco

The wheel deal

Remember the hazy days of 1998? B*Witched had two UK No.1s. ITV's Airline was pretty much the most popular thing on the goggle box. And Godzilla was the third-highest grossing movie of the year.

Basically, we were all idiots.

Except, that is, for a bunch of smart-thinking types over at Reflections Interactive - who treated us to genre-busting gaming classic Driver.

If you witnessed it, you probably ached for a return to form with each further addition to the dwindling series. And just like us, you were probably perennially disappointed.

And just like us, when you heard about Driver: San Francisco for the first time last year, you probably shared a mini-sick with fellow fans - especially when the whole 'Tanner can float between cars like a ghost because he's in a coma' thing dropped.

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If you're really new and this is the first you've heard of the spooky mechanic, swallow those chunks and allow us to explain.

In Driver: San Francisco, everybody's favourite Green Cross Code-curbing cop John Tanner is blasted into a coma by long-time nemesis Charles Jericho. A ballsy move, and ultimately a game-breaking one, you might think: the amount of driving you can do from a hospital bed is limited at best.

Think again. This is John Tanner we're talking about - he can rattle four wheels through a box-heavy alley in his sleep. Literally.

In fact, that's exactly what he does. The majority of Driver: San Francisco takes place inside Tanner's head, in a reality where he can make like Google Earth at a moment's notice and 'Shift' between vehicles.

It's a simple device. As you're tooting around like some road dependent schmuck a press of the X button will lift you out of your body and high above the streets, where you can glide about with the left stick, target another vehicle and possess its driver.

COMAGAIN?

If that premise sounds a bit dumb, that's because it is. But the team at Reflections knows exactly that - which is what allows it to work. Instead of trying force the idea into the bleak, super-serious Driver world we're used to, this is a brighter, funnier game that doesn't try to be anything more than fun.

It means that the opening hour or so bumbles through something close to narrative explanation that, to be honest, could be omitted entirely. Once everything's in place and you're back behind the wheel, you don't really care why you can pull a Casper at will.

On the road the Shift mechanic is smooth, well implemented and actually pretty useful.

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If you're chasing a perp, for example, and your fellow road-users aren't doing their bit by risking their life and limb to slam into the high-speed getaway car, you can do the old up and down, whoosh into their head and take matters into your own hands.

Similarly, if you're falling behind your target you can use Shift to hop forward a few cars to get you back in the game.

Side-missions are based on Shift as well. A number of different tasks are triggered by possessing certain citizens. Old favourites to the genre are all accounted for; cops v robbers, stunt runs and races are all but a Shift away and more inventive scenarios such as possessing a kid on his driving lesson in order to make his instructor kack his pants are welcome.

Of course, the glaring problem with having the ability to Shift is that you can go through the game without actually doing all that much driving. It means that the single-player campaign (coming in at around seven or eight hours) can be rattled through pretty quickly because its very easy to give yourself the upper-hand.

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